"Take Five," the Dave Brubeck Quartet's cool-jazz classic in 5/4 time, was made for dancing. Its swanky, sweeping notes practically demand dramatic movement, from the fast little beats accentuated by piano and percussion to the dreamy saxophone—all of it should inspire at least a little boogie or hip thrust from even the squarest among us. In TAKE FIVE... More or Less, Susan Stroman's choreography meets the tunes of Brubeck and Paul Desmond to frame some of Pacific Northwest Ballet's grooviest dancers in the opening number of this year's Director's Choice program.
TAKE FIVE—which was commissioned for PNB by artistic director Peter Boal and debuted in 2008—begins with "Yellow," soon-to-retire principal dancer Kaori Nakamura, dressed in a simple, solid-colored dress, tapping her foot to the soft cymbals rising up from the orchestra pit. She is joined by "Red," the super-tall, graceful, and newly promoted principal dancer Lindsi Dec, and they move quickly in a series of pique turns (moving on one foot with the other pointed at the standing knee). Four other women in various bright colors appear and exit, along with five men in solid black 1940s-ish shirts and trousers who leap onto the stage. Everyone is happy and everyone loves this piece—that much is obvious by the way it palpably elevates the mood in McCaw Hall. Dec and audience favorite Kiyon Gaines steal the show, Gaines tap-dancing with a huge grin, Dec's movements seductively mesmerizing whether she's kicking a perfect calf high over her head or plopped on her bum center stage, sculpted shoulders shimmying to the floor, eyes locked with a rapt audience.
Annual Director's Choice–type programs are common in larger dance companies, even when they depend on the kind of old-guard ballet fans who are more apt to sell out a classical story ballet than a mixed-bag program of innovative choreography. But PNB's Director's Choice gives us a glimpse into Boal's brain, showing us the kind of dance we might see more of if arts funding grew on trees.